Reading Improves Your Mental Health

“Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.”  Joyce Carol Oates

May 1st to 7th is Mental Health Week here in Canada, not sure that holds for the rest of the world but it doesn’t really matter. Mental health is a subject for all 52 weeks of the year anywhere on the planet. I’m only just realizing how important a well rounded self-care regimen really is to one’s continued mental wellbeing. And seeing as my mental health isn’t always within the optimal range you could be fair to say I’m a slow learner. Good thing it’s never too late to start taking care of yourself.

Three websites listing MANY resources for those who are suffering or who know someone that is:

I wish I could list links for the planet, but hopefully the links above give you an idea of what information and resources you can search out in your own country or region.

But most importantly: Ask for help or seek advice from a professional – give your mental health the attention it needs and deserves.

I can say from personal experience, you won’t regret it. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy gave me important tools to manage my symptoms of depression and anxiety. But in reality it’s of benefit to everyone as we all have to deal with life’s challenges, stresses, and demands. Learn how to manage negative thinking or inaccurate thoughts. Learn the difference between positive thinking and realistic thinking. Make your mental health a priority!

We all need and deserve breaks. But we can’t all jump on a plane or boat and spend a month in Bora Bora. There are numerous ways to relieve stress that won’t put you in the poor house.

One of my favourite ways to relieve stress? Reading. Of course, reading has many benefits, but it’s also a way to reset and recharge. Six minutes of reading can reduce your stress levels by 68%. In the last few months I’ve taken to reading print books again, after having all but given them up. It was a craving really, a desire to hold a print book in my hands. There’s a term for this – slow reading. I guess it’s no surprise that I’m back to reading print (I haven’t given up ebooks!) as I’ve embraced a more mindful life style. Science has proven slow reading reduces stress, increases your ability to concentrate, and improves your sleep.

I’ve just started a wonderful (so far) book: The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware! Good thing because this month promises to be a busy one.

When travel journalist Lo Blacklock is invited on a boutique luxury cruise around the Norwegian fjords, it seems like a dream career opportunity.

But the trip takes a nightmarish turn when she wakes in the middle of the night to hear a body being thrown overboard – only to discover that no-one has been reported missing from the boat.

How do you stop a killer, when no-one believes they exist?

Funny how reading about murder allows me to relax! What do you do to relieve stress? And please, offer book recommendations! I’m always in need of a great book to read.

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Books, Mothers, and Memories

I remember trips to the library to pick out books with my kids. Me pulling them along in our wagon. Loading up on books and coming home to read. Cuddling up and turning the pages. Maybe we’d read the story before, or maybe it was a new to us story. Those times are among my fondest memories. I still remember their favourites: Something Out Of Nothing by Phoebe Gilman, Have You Seen Birds by Barbara Reid, Arthur books, Franklin books, Berenstain Bears books. Matthew and The Midnight Pirates by Allen Morgan and Michael Martchenko. Okay, maybe that was one of my favourites. And every time I read Love You Forever by Robert Munsch I tried not to cry.

“Goodnight stars,

Goodnight air,

Goodnight noises everywhere.”

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

I remember going to the library with my mom, who is also an avid reader. Our small town had a cozy little library but it seemed huge to me. And full of possibilities. I’m so very glad she introduced me to the idea of a room filled with books for the borrowing. Thank you, Mom!

Another memory. We lived in a farmhouse on a mixed cattle/grain operation. In the winter, we kids often ended up downstairs playing games or watching television. My mom stayed upstairs. You could usually find her sitting over a heat register on the floor reading a book. That was her escape time. Because we moms need those.

The Gift of Reading

My sister takes the Adorables to the library. And when she comes to visit it’s one of the first places my mom takes her. Bedtime means story time or reading time depending on the age and ability of the child. I hope that’s one of things my kids will remember when they get older. All those trips to library. All the books. The words. The pictures. The love that went into reading them. The time spent.

Some of you might enjoy this article: The Simple Practices to Nurture the Motivation to Read. Whether you’re reading to your kids, your siblings’ kids, the neighbour kids or your grandkids. Maybe you volunteer at a shelter, a community centre, or a library.

Book Recommendation

I’m wrapping up reading All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, which is our May book club pick. And what a fantastic read it is! If you find yourself in need of some respite, this is the book for you! An engaging delight for the senses in the form of a captivating story with intriguing characters.

Reading

Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks. When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris in June of 1940, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure’s agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.

In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure’s.

There are many things about this novel that are wonderful. That make reading it an experience to be savoured. One of the small things that I took away from it is the importance of creativity. Of books, of music, of art. And how those things can soothe, even for a moment, a tortured soul.

Happy Mother’s Day on Sunday. What’s a treasured book memory of yours?

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B Is For Bookshelves #atozchallenge

Bookshelves. Everyone’s got ’em. Whether you put books on it is a whole different story. Please tell me you put books on it! However you arrange things, the truly awesome thing about bookshelves is that no one has the same shelf. Literally no one else on the planet has the same compilation of things lining their shelves.

A to Z April Blogging Challenge 2016

B Is For Bookshelves

What do our bookshelves say about us? I can’t say for sure, I’m not a psychology major. That you like to read? That you adore knickknacks? Have a thing for photos? Candles? My bookshelves are full of two of those things: books and photos. Candles and books don’t mix. Knickknacks scare me. I feel like I’m one step away from becoming a hoarder when I’m surrounded by them. Other people’s collections are symbolic of who they are, sometimes quirky, and often charming. I’m quite okay with other people’s knickknacks.

There are many ways to arrange books: alphabetically, by genre, size, colour. Some stack literary works on one side. Genre fiction on the other. Some of us mix it up. Below is a peek into one of shelves. I have to say I’m an arrange by size fan. Mostly. Kind of.

Bookshelf

Mostly wine book club books on this one. The Sanity Seekers have been around for nearly fifteen years. The same core group of seven or eight drinkers readers. I prefer to read book club selections in print. For no nobler reason than it’s easier to judge how much I have to read in a very short amount of time. Another confession – it’s easier to skim. Because some of the books we’ve read…yikes. From the very first book we shared, Chocolat by Joanne Harris, to today, I could not have survived with my sanity intact without my book club. Our current book?

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

These days when it comes to books some of us also have ebook shelves. Seriously, what did we do without ereaders? 

My Ebook Shelf

Other bloggers waving at you from over here!

There you have it. A look at my shelves. What’s on yours?

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Why My To-Be-Read Pile Is Smallish

Is Your To-Be-Read Pile Manageable?

An interesting question was posed on Facebook the other day: Is owning books as good as reading them?

Say what now?

Because why would you own a book you weren’t planning on reading? That’s like…I don’t know what it’s like exactly. I mean I have books on my shelves I haven’t read, not because I don’t plan on it. I want to read them, I just haven’t. Yet. Pride and Prejudice I’m looking at you. But good intentions matter, right?

Jane Austen

Then I remembered being invited to dinner years ago. I immediately gravitated to her lovely bookshelf. I’m always interested in a person’s book collections. I remarked on how careful she was with her books and asked how she’d like a particular one. Her response? She’d bought it figuring it would look good on her shelf. She was right. It did. It fit right in with the other books she had no intention of reading. And since she was and still is a lovely person we laughed about it. I mean not everyone is a reading nerd and that’s okay.

And books are beautiful. Check out any number of book related hashtags on Instagram: #bookstagram #booklover #bookporn #bookphotography, to see why others think so too.

All this love for books is heartwarming! Really it is. Buy books! Lots and LOTS of books. Buy my books. If you read them even better. Reading rocks! But I’ve heard of people who have downloaded hundreds and hundreds of books thanks to the wide range of free books, 99 cent books and the like. So again…

Is Owning Books As Good As Reading Them?

Who am I to tell people what they should or should not be doing? Some might be comforted by the all the possibilities. The reasons people buy books is as varied as the people themselves. For myself, I can’t face a toppling to-be-read pile. Knowing all those books are there waiting is to much pressure. As it is I’m freaking out because I’ve been reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert for months. I love it but non-fiction doesn’t sweep me away like my preferred fiction does, and these last few months I’ve needed the escape.

The Lake House by Kate Morton

This lovely book, The Lake House by Kate Morton, is one of the few books on my TBR pile. On my ereader waits Norah Wilson’s The Standish Clan trilogy which is set in the fictional small town of Harkness, New Brunswick. In Norah’s words these stories are sweet, sexy and romantic. And this trilogy is just the first of many series to come under the Hearts of Harkness banner!

The+Standish+Clan+Trilogy

There are a couple of other books waiting in wings. But right now I’m reading The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah for book club. And listening to Better When He’s Bold by Jay Crownover in Audible when I’m on the treadmill.

There are books I want to read but haven’t purchased. Books I’m considering purchasing. And release dates for books by authors I’m waiting for. But all in all, I like to keep my pile manageable. Otherwise I’d never get anything done.

Because I’d rather be reading.

What’s in your to-be-read pile? Is it toppling? A neat stack? Nonexistent? Come on, ‘fess up!

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February Wrap Up

It’s leap day! Because some long dead old dude decided it was a good idea to make February longer. Thanks for that. Like us Canadians couldn’t use an extra day of summer. But the end is near! A special shout out to those of you celebrating birthdays on this day – Happy actual Birthday!

Wrapping It Up!

Work, Health, and Happiness

Work

February saw the extension of my writing groups January Writing Challenge. I finished the first draft of the book in my third Aspen Lake series in January. February has been all about revising, which I adore. One of my favourite parts of the revision process is developing the secondary characters. In this case, my heroine Grace’s family. They’re hurting and they’re about to hurt worse. Grace’s sister Hope, her husband Kent and their son Levi are part of a secondary plot is as much fun to write as it is heartbreaking.

Here’s a little snippet.

Hope bowed her head. “We’ll make it okay for him. It’ll be all-“

“Make it okay for him?” Kent looked like someone had punched him in the face.

Grace put out her hand. “Kent-“

He was back to pointing fingers. At Grace. “You know what this has been like for him. You know. There’s no making this okay.”

He wasn’t done. Not by a long shot. And he spewed the rest of it all over his wife. “What am I supposed to tell him? Huh? Guess what, buddy? Your old man screwed up. Again. As if the last seven months haven’t been bad enough. But you wouldn’t know that. Because, as usual, you caused a whole bunch of shit and then were unavailable to deal with it. But you know who has been here? I have. And Grace has. We’ve been dealing with Levi’s nightmares, the looks, his troubles at school. And now when things are finally settling down? Here we go again.”

“I’m sorry.”

“You don’t get to fucking tell me you’re sorry. Do. Not. Even. Try.”

Grace didn’t know who to go to, who to hug, who needed contact the most. They both looked broken. Defeated. Done.

Health

Halfway through the month I went gluten and dairy free for health reasons, of which I won’t bore you with the details. Only to say I’ve done this before and felt great. I’m thankful to say history is repeating itself. I couldn’t do it without menu planning, more about the ups and downs of that in March.

Menu Planning Karyn Good

I continue on my mindfulness path with restorative yoga, which I adore. Reclined cobler’s pose is one of my favourite. I tried reformer Pilates which I actually liked but it brought some alignment issues into play which I feel like I must deal with before continuing. Plus, it’s expensive. I haven’t signed up for more classes, content to continue with my treadmill goals. Also, we survived the plague. Yay us!

reclined cobler pose

Happiness

Reading makes me happy. And February saw me listening to my first Audible book. I’m happy to say it helped pass the time on the treadmill. At this point, I still prefer reading either an ebook or a print book. Those take full concentration and sweep you away. That wasn’t my experience with audio books. But I will definitely listen to another one. Anything that helps me want to get on the treadmill is a good thing. What was it I read? It was Built by Jay Crownover! I listened to it using Audible, but I’m planning to look into borrowing audio books from the library.

reading

That’s February. Looking forward to March! What did you accomplish in February? Where did you go? What did you read? How did you survive the shortest month of the year?

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My Top Five Books of 2015

 My Top Five List

The last days of December always lend themselves to reflection. Everyone’s posting what topped their lists in 2016. My top five is books, of course! I read a lot of new-to-me authors and interesting books this year because of free book offerings and book sale sites. A lot. I have to say I enjoyed quite a few of them, but I wanted to keep this list manageable. These five stood out!

12 Rose Street by Gail Bowen (A Joanne Kilbourn Mystery #15) 

This is no cozy mystery and Joanne Kilbourn is not your warm and fuzzy type of heroine. Not that there’s anything wrong with cozy or fuzzy when it comes to characters and books. But Joanne Kilbourn is a strong female lead who isn’t afraid to make decisions and take action. LOVE. I also loved how Bowen crafted a story about an inner city area and made it about the greed and avarice of the wealthy. And, of course, politics. Well written, well plotted – well done!

12 rose street

Cold In The Shadows by Toni Anderson (Cold Justice Series Book 5)

Anderson’s Cold Justice Series was new to me this year and it all started with a free book, the first one in the series. But Cold In The Shadows, number five, is my favourite of the series. Again, love her characters, who are strong, intelligent and driven. It’s short on angst and the over-the-top emotional introspection which seems to be very popular these days. You get the sense Anderson knows her stuff and has done her research.

cold in the shadows

Deep by Kylie Scott (Stage Dive Series Book 4)

How I adore this series! Which is strange because I’m not usually a fan of New Adult or rockstar romances. But Scott’s got a great voice and a wicked sense of humour. And once again, it’s full of strong, independent female characters, who aren’t perfect and make questionable choices, but they’re smart, honest, and real. There are depth to the characters and each one is unique. This series is fresh, smart, and appealing.

deep

Him by Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen

These two! I loved the banter between these two guys and the internal dialogue which was just the right kind of not-too-over-the-top. Again, not a New Adult fan, but here I am picking another one. In fact, I don’t read sports stories either. But hello…the writing! And it’s super sexy and super sweet with no alpha males in sight.

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

Read this one for book club. I’ve read a lot of good books for book club. While I enjoy literary works of fiction they don’t comfort or intrigue or whisk me away like genre fiction. But I do love it when an author presents you with a story that makes you question what you would have done in the characters place. Makes you question how noble you really are?

the husband's secret

There you have it! My top five picks for 2015. I’m sure many great books will find their way into my to-be-read pile in 2016. What was you favourite book(s) of the year?

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What I’ve Been Reading…

No surprise I love reading. I’m somewhat of a varied reader. How’s that for vague? I wouldn’t say I read all over the place, because I do prefer certain types of stories over others.

  1. Happy endings. Please, please, please let it have a happy ending. I have read books for book club where only one person is left standing. I just…don’t even… want to go there. I recently had coffee with a rather new friend. We had a lovely time discussing many things including books. We’re both avid readers which made us instant friends who will never be at a loss for conversational topics. But I mentioned my love of happy endings and she looked at me in surprise, and said, “But not every story can end happyily.” To which I replied, “I know, and I don’t want to read those stories.” Which led to another discussion.

That’s it. That’s all I have. One requirement. Which, I think, still leaves a lot of open road. To that end, I’ve been reading.

a paris apartment

When April Vogt’s boss tells her about the discoveries in a cramped, decrepit apartment in the ninth arrondissement, the Sotheby’s continental furniture specialist does not hear the words dust or rats or shuttered for seventy years. She hears Paris. She hears escape.

Once in Paris, April quickly learns the apartment is not merely some rich hoarder’s repository. Beneath the dust and cobwebs and stale perfumed air is a goldmine and not because of the actual gold (or painted ostrich eggs or mounted rhinoceros horns or bronze bathtub). First, there’s a portrait by one of the masters of the Belle Époque. And there are letters and journals written by the woman in the painting, documents showing she was more than a renowned courtesan with enviable décolletage. Suddenly it’s no longer about the bureau plats and Louis-style armchairs that will fetch millions at auction. It’s about a life. Two lives, actually.

With the help of a salty Parisian solicitor and the courtesan’s private documents, April tries to uncover the secrets buried in the apartment. As she digs into one woman’s life, April can’t help but take a deeper look into her own. When two things she left bubbling back in the States begin to boil over, April starts to wonder if in this apartment or in this life, she’ll ever find what she’s looking for.

I liked it! Because hello Paris! An abandoned apartment. A hoarder. Of cool stuff. Expensive stuff! If you love antique furniture, you’ll love this book. I also adoring this contemporary/history story mix idea right now. One taking place in the present and one in the past. I loved reading about Paris too! So win!

They don’t play for the same team. Or do they?

Jamie Canning has never been able to figure out how he lost his closest friend. Four years ago, his tattooed, wise-cracking, rule-breaking roommate cut him off without an explanation. So what if things got a little weird on the last night of hockey camp the summer they were eighteen? It was just a little drunken foolishness. Nobody died.

Ryan Wesley’s biggest regret is coaxing his very straight friend into a bet that pushed the boundaries of their relationship. Now, with their college teams set to face off at the national championship, he’ll finally get a chance to apologize. But all it takes is one look at his longtime crush, and the ache is stronger than ever.

Jamie has waited a long time for answers, but walks away with only more questions—can one night of sex ruin a friendship? If not, how about six more weeks of it? When Wesley turns up to coach alongside Jamie for one more hot summer at camp, Jamie has a few things to discover about his old friend…and a big one to learn about himself.

Loved this book! Which surprised me because I’m generally not a fan of the New Adult genre. Or sports stories. I can’t remember what influenced me to read it. But oh my gosh! It was super sexy. And super sweet! No alpha males in sight. So double win. 

a cold dark placeJustice isn’t always black or white. 
Former CIA assassin Alex Parker works for The Gateway Project, a clandestine government organization hell-bent on taking out serial killers and pedophiles before they enter the justice system. Alex doesn’t enjoy killing, but he’s damn good at it. He’s good at dodging the law, too—until a beautiful rookie agent has him wondering what it might be like to get caught.
FBI Special Agent Mallory Rooney has spent years hunting the lowlife who abducted her identical twin sister eighteen years ago. Now, during an on-going serial killer investigation, Mallory begins to suspect there’s a vigilante operating outside the law. She has no choice but to take him down, because murder isn’t justice. Is it? 
Sometimes it’s cold and dark.
When Mallory starts asking questions, The Gateway Project management starts to sweat, and orders Alex to watch her. As soon as they meet, the two begin to fall in love. But the lies and betrayals that define Alex’s life threaten to destroy them both—especially when the man who stole her sister all those years ago makes Mallory his next target, and Alex must reveal his true identity to save the woman he loves.

The last couple of months I’ve been reading Toni Anderson’s Cold Justice series. I’ve really enjoyed these books! I’m on No.4! Smart, chilling, and very realistic. The characters are intelligent and respect each other. The plotting is awesome sauce! 

So, that’s what I’ve been reading. How about you? What has you turning the pages these days?

 

 

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The Big Book Theory

Book buying theory: you get the one that fits your mood, your life really, at that moment in time. It’s not incredibly complicated. (Or you buy it because you need to read it for book club.) We all have a method of choosing what book we need. A system we use to whittle down the choices. Stories come in all shapes, sizes, and styles. We might go big, It might be small. Slow moving. Or rocket fast. Spicy or sweet. Happy. Sad. True. Or complete fantasy.

I need at least one book on the go at all times, for sanity sake.

So…I was in the bookstore the other day looking for some epic reads for our camping holiday. As I scanned the tables of books at Chapters (my local bookstore) I noticed a book I’d seen on Twitter by an author I follow. A suspense kind of book, which I love. Very interesting title. Attractive cover. I picked it up to read the blurb and goodness gravy the thing had to weigh 5 pounds. Not quite, but close. but it was Big. BIG, I tell you.

Not even Stephen King’s reassurance that it was a fantastic read and one should not be put off by the sheer number of pages convinced me to buy it. And it turns out it was the second in a trilogy so I need to read the first book, well…first.

Still, I feel kind of wimpy for basing my decision on page length instead of whether I’d enjoy the actually story in those many pages. I mean I read big books. Because hello, Kristen Ashely. She writes long stories and it’s kind of nice knowing you’re in it for the long haul. That you’re going to be engaged for awhile and you don’t have to worry about the story ending too soon. I’ve read Exodus by Leon Uris. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugnenides. I read Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet. Heck, I was probably qualified to build a catherdral after that one. And I thoroughly enjoyed every one of them. I love picking up a Nora Roberts’ book because I know I’m going to sink in, relax, and enjoy.

big books

I just don’t like them all the time. I’ve gotten into the habit of reading shorter books. Past paced, moving quickly, lots happening all at once kind of books, which I also love. And some big stories come in shorter books. I wasn’t in the mood for lengthy. I was looking for something else.

I made my selections that day and here’s what I ended up with: a romantic suspense (I think it was – warning; there is a lot of sex in this book. A LOT. Just so you know.); a colouring book which I adore; and 2 young adult books, one of which I’ve started.)

IMG_1169Do you read big books? Do you care how long the story is if it’s something you think you might want to read? How do you pick books?

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Fictional Settings: More Than Time and Place

Setting transports readers to a different time and place. I recently saw an article on what reading does for anxious people. That’s me. I’m a worrier. Reading transports me to another place in the blink of an eye. The setting can be familiar or exotic. But it always has to be meaningul to the characters, which in turn makes it meaningful to me, the reader.

As a writer setting is a tool used to enhance characters and their actions and reactions. It drives suspense. It supports the political and social environment of the story. Setting creates a mood or a feeling in the reader. Or I should say this is a continuing work-in-progress.

My fictional setting of Aspen Lake is that of a small resort town on the prairies. It is modeled after a real-life resort town. A place that is near and dear to my heart. I spent many sunny beach days there as child. I worked in the park for a couple of summers as a teenager. I met my husband there. Have camped their with my own family. It is important to me.

But in BACKLASH, Book 1 of my Aspen Lake series, that isn’t the case for my hero, Constable Chase Porter, who grew up with an abusive father and couldn’t wait to leave. Now he’s back and picking up the trail of wanted gang leader and living next door to the girl he left behind.

Backlash_w6440_300

And damn his scheming excuse of a realtor to hell. A quaint, post-Victorian home, his ass. Unless crumbling and broken-down constituted quaint. In that case, he’d nailed the description. Fine by him, he didn’t have forever in mind. A couple years tops, unless he hit the transfer to anywhere else lottery. He hated tranquil and quiet. He preferred noise and movement. Life after nine in the evening. Anonymity.

EXPOSED is Book 2 in the Aspen Lake series and will be released sometime this autumn. Seth Stone is the new guy in town. He’s downing a good job of keeping his head down until Kate Logan, boutique owner and head of Aspen Lake’s annual Gothic Revival Fair (which includes the Mad Man’s Ball), becomes the target of a fanatic.

Exposed_w9362_med

More lights, more candles, more pumpkins decorated the impromptu ballroom. Tables covered in white linen with bronze runners held vases bursting with fall flowers. Swags of purple hung down from the roof. It should have looked cheesy, but somehow it all came together with enough shadow to be mysterious and enough light to cast a spell. Seth focused on the nooks and crannies and the plenty of places to hide and countless ways to make trouble.

MIKE and GRACE’S story is the third book in the Aspen Lake story and a work-in-progress. Their pattern of avoiding each other is broken when a cold case pushes local Grace Bighill and Constable Michael Davenport together. Rumors threaten secrets which in turn tests the loyalty of all involved.

Her head swivelled owl-like. The rest of her was scared to move in case any dust escaped her person and landed on any one of numerous pristine surfaces. He seemed to have a thing for beige. Beige furniture. Beige lamps. Beige carpet. Okay the carpet probably came with the place so technically not his fault. But still…Grace made a mental note to clean her whole house which at the moment looked like a yarn factory and pastry shoppe had a war to which there was no clear winner.

I had a hard time narrowing my favourite fictional settings down to three. But this post is long already. If you’ve made it this far – thank you for sticking with it. I decided to pick a book from my childhood, one book pre-kids, and one I read with my book club and is also one of my all-time favourite books.

I can’t think of a book in which the fictional setting impacted me more than Room by Emma Donoghue. Told from the point of view of five-year-old Jack. I was captivated from page one.

I flat the chairs and put them beside Door against Clothes Horse. He grumbles and says there’s no room but there’s plenty if he stands up really straight.

We’ve all met at least one five-year-old along the way. They’re not the most reliable of narrators. But seeing things through Jack’s viewpoint, his thought process, his dialogue, is what makes this novel the incredibly moving and dramatic work of fiction.

In The Mists of Avalon Marion Zimmer Bradley takes us back to Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table. The Arthur legend is a favourite of mine and has been since forever.  But Bradley’s version is very different and told from the perspective of the women of Avalon. it is a powerful look at double standards, male dominance, and the idea of predicting the future.

And then, in one great act of Druid magic, to protect the last precious refuge of their school, they had made the last great change in the world; that change which removed the Island of Avalon from the world of mankind. Now it lay hidden in the mist which concealed it, except from those initiates who had been schooled there or those who were shown the secret ways through the Lake.

It’s tempting to think of adjectives holding the power when describing setting, but in the above it’s the verbs that grab your attention and hold it.

It was Canada Day yesterday and I can’t think of a more Canadian setting than Green Gables as found in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. One of my most beloved stories.

To the west a dark church spire rose up against a marigold sky. Below was a little valley and beyond a long, gently-rising slope with snug farmsteads scattered along it. From one to another the child’s eyes darted, eager and wistful. At last they lingered on one away to the left, far back from the road, dimly white with blossoming trees in the twilight of the surrounding woods. Over it, in the stainless southwest sky, a great crystal-white star was shining like a lamp of guidance and promise.

It’s a panoramic look at what Anne, an orphan, thinks is going to be her new home given to us through Matthew’s eyes. The beauty is in the details.

What are some of your favourite fictional settings?

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Me! Standing on the spot that inspired Lover's Lane!

Me! Standing on the spot that inspired Lover’s Lane!

 

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5 Reasons To Make Reading An Absolute Priority This Summer

Besides the obvious, which is because we want to!

1. You can do it for free! And who doesn’t love free! If funds are tight it’s mandatory. Or you can save your money for mojitos and margaritas. Or the fabulous day trip you’ve been planning (don’t forget to pack a book). Get a pedicure! You can pick up print books from the library shelves, or borrow ebooks. God bless libraries. I consider them an essential service! They give you the opportunity to try a book you might not chance buying. You might discover a new-to-you author. Their backlist. Then there’s no stopping you.

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2. You can be an Extreme Reader and not risk your life! This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Unless you need me to tell you not to walk and read. Or maybe that’s only my clumsy self.

3. You can do it on the beach. In a hammock. In the park. In the shade. In a hotel room. In the airpost. Waiting for the ferry. On the bus. In your campsite. Any where. Any how. Any way. You might make a new friend over discussing the books you’re each reading. Also, reading is sexy. So…you know, it might help you score. Do the kids still use that word?

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4. Reading has absolutely zero calories. If you’re interested in that kind of thing. Or concerned about calories. But where’s the fun in that. It also pairs well with wine. Popcorn. Veggies and dip. Fresh berries. Reading is very versitile in that regard and I’m sure Gordon Ramsey would concure. Do it while eating pizza, burgers, or Chinese food. I’m a firm believer that a book look tattered and torn when finished. Unless you get it from a library. Or a friend. Then you might want to keep the crumbs to yourself.

5. Reading helps you chill out. Have stress? And who of us doesn’t? Books can take you away from your day-to-day troubles for a little while and help you relax. So go ahead, let a good book sweep you off your feet. Fall in love with a fictional character. Live in a fantasy world for a few minutes. Go back in time. Help solve a mystery. Play detective. Blush over the sexy bits. Get chills and thrills and crime.

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You can set yourself a summer reading challenge. Do a group read with friends. Or family. Like my sister, mom, and I are reading The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. I’ve pre-ordered Kristen Ashley’s Ride Steady (Chaos #3). I want to read Searching for Sunday: Loving, Learning, and Finding the Church by Rachel Evans Held. Maybe J.R. Ward’s The Bourbon Kings. HelenKay Dimon’s Playing Dirty. Oh, who am I kidding, there are too many to mention.

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Read! Nothing goes with summer like a good book! What books are you looking forward to reading this summer? Also, share your recommendations!

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